Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Blue Shoe, Anne Lamott (3 stars)

From Amazon: Mattie Ryder is marvelously neurotic, well-intentioned, funny, religious, sarcastic, tender, angry, and broke. Her life at the moment is a wreck: her marriage has failed, her mother is failing, her house is rotting, her waist is expanding, her children are misbehaving, and she has a crush on a married man. Then she finds a small rubber blue shoe—nothing more than a gumball trinket—left behind by her father. For Mattie, it becomes a talisman—a chance to recognize the past for what it was, to see the future as she always hoped it could be, and to finally understand her family, herself, and the ever-unfolding mystery of her sweet, sad, and sometimes surprising life.

Nobody writes “marvelously neurotic” as well as Anne Lamott. As a writer, I loved her novel on writing, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (read my 5-star review here). And I’ve said time and time again that I wouldn’t have survived my first year as a mom without her memoir, Operating Instructions: A Journal of my Son’s First Year. Her willingness to lay it all on the line, flaws and all, is appealing and endearing.

So I was excited to finally read one of her fiction novels. Blue Shoe is about Mattie Ryder, a woman struggling to find herself after divorce. Along the journey, she falls for a married man, discovers her father’s secrets, begins to understand her mother, and starts to find her strength.

While searching for answers, she discovers a small rubber blue shoe in her father’s things. It becomes a beacon of hope and a charm for protection. Mattie and her brother ultimately discover just how dysfunctional their family is, and how it has affected who they have become.

I’m all for flawed characters and families, but there has to be an underlying likability that makes you want to endure the character’s struggles. Hopefully the payoff is a slightly less flawed character in the end, one you care about. This book simply ended up being a struggle for me. I kept feeling like I was on the edge of liking it, of really embracing the characters, but I never made it there. It makes me sad, because I really wanted to love it.

I have enough faith in Anne Lamott’s writing and ability to create raw and emotional story that this book will not make me give up on her work. But I’ll be doing a bit more research on which of her fiction books I try next.

Rating: 3 stars

More about the author: Anne Lamott is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Grace (Eventually), Plan B, Traveling Mercies, and Operating Instructions, as well as seven novels, including Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. She is a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.


This book was part of my 2012 TBR (To Be Read) Pile Challenge. Now, I only have six more to read by the end of the year. No pressure!

Thankfully, I love to read. Bring it on!